Incorporating Sustainability Into Our Corporate Lives: How to Make a Difference and Look Like a Superstar at the Office
This week, I am beginning an exciting new chapter in my life, and working outside design for the first time in my career. After almost four years with an architectural/interior design firm, I am moving to a communications strategy position within a management consulting organization.
As part of the AIGA design community as well the architectural community, sustainability has been ingrained into my everyday culture and the actions and language that we take and speak. Although I know that sustainability is highly valued at my new firm, it is not necessarily part of the core business practices (with the exception of a consulting practice in Energy Management). However, I know that I will continue to look at ways to integrate sustainability into my everyday practices there.
Most corporate organizations have incorporated sustainability into their business practices, and chair sustainability initiatives as part of their ongoing goals and metrics. The average corporate worker, however, may wonder: What can I really do to further sustainable change in this company? I am finding myself asking the same question as well, entering a new organization and wondering what kind of an impact I can have. And although I have not yet begun to weave myself into the organization’s culture, I anticipate that I can help to further sustainable business practices in the following ways.
Familiarize yourself with organization’s position on sustainability. Most corporations or large organizations have some principles or guidelines that they follow around sustainability, but many employees probably don’t take the time to understand or familiarize themselves with them. It’s hard to start making improvements if you don’t know what the baseline is.
If your company doesn’t have a sustainability policy, start one. This may sound like a daunting undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. Do some research on the policies of competitors and/or peers to understand some benchmarks, and then look at how your company could develop a policy that differentiates it from others. Share these ideas with your supervisor and individuals in upper management. Although they may not be able to ultimately implement your ideas, you will have at least started the discussion and made yourself look sharp.
Look at ways that your current business practices could be more sustainable and present them to the leadership of your organization. Could your company promote more telecommuting? Or use more sustainable materials in the lunchroom? Maybe you could organize a day of service for Earth Day that would also help promote teambuilding. There are so many ways in which organizations can make small improvements, and most people just get too preoccupied to spend the time to propose these changes.
When presenting ideas, it is important to also demonstrate a business reason behind them, as business leaders will be more receptive to ideas that are not just “sustainable for their own sake.” If you don’t have an understanding of this on your own, do research and put together a short presentation, then schedule a short meeting with the relevant leadership in your organization to review the proposal. Chances are that they will be receptive to at least a portion of your ideas, and you will also set yourself apart by taking the initiative to propose new ideas.
Looking at ways to enhance your organization’s level of sustainability can be a success on many levels: You will feel that you are making a difference in your organization; you can improve your company’s “green credentials,” and you can make yourself look like a superstar at the office. It’s a “win-win” for all involved.
Thumbnail photo by Juhan Sonin.